Sunday, January 27, 2013

54 - The 12-13 Antarctic season quickly running out and emotional times.

Hello friends,

well I though it about time that i did another blog as I have left it a little long again. This exciting adventure like those before has been another incredibly one with incredible people and stories. The only difference with this one is the amount of re-offenders. Now repeat offenders are great in both a work and personal sense as in a work sense there is no need to explain where stuff. On a personal sense coming down with friends its like you never left. This time there is only 10-12 people that I previously knew and have been down with before and its been different. 

Different is good though and its also nice taking the time to smell the roses a little more I guess. Its really cool to see the looks on many green horns faces and reflect on how I must have looked when first facing the big white nothing. It is an amazing place and i feel very fortunate to have been a minute part of what has been happening down here. 

Now on to the business at hand, the past couple weeks have been very busy as programs begin to close. This season its been a particularly short one which was always going to be the case but as you might remember with the ship getting stuck in the ice it began late but now running ahead of the initial schedule. This is one thing you have to get use to down here, change is always a foot. The saying "roll with the punches", "keep flexible" even though i cant touch my toes without bending my knees is also a good one but this is true for much of our life down here. That brings us more able to cope with what Antarctica throughs at us, or in other words deal with the "A" factor. 

Its hard for my loved ones at times to deal with the  many uncertainties at times here as although we have a date advertised on the web site there are many many unknowns. Like when the ship makes it into the pack ice is it going to get stuck, the weather, other emergencies from other ships or other countries stations that might need assistance and we can get the help they need. Which leads me onto the next point about the co-operation from every nation here in Antarctica. 

There is a common thread of co-operation on several different fronts down here but it all comes back to brotherhood really. We all have a tuff time when it comes to dealing with an fellow expeditionar from whatever nation gets hurt. Once the official requests have come through all the stops are pulled and whatever we or another nation can do is done. Its quite amazing to see happen. There really is a very strong bond formed by all the people that share this experience that makes it very special and a real sense of extended family that is hard to put into words. 

I know many others that I have shared this experience with me also read my sometimes long winded blog and I'm sure they understand what I'm trying to convey but still after four seasons find so hard to explain. So as i have explained there are several people whom i have been down with before that i share this special bond with and one of them is a guy called Rodney Charles. Now Rocket as he is known is a chef down here and this is my third xmas with him. Rocket lived on the coast for a while in the 90's i believe and incredibly worked in a opposition bakery across the road from one of our bakeries. He also is quite artistic, both with his music and particularly with his drawings, not that he is bad at music of course. There is a little video he did in the 11-12 season by another expeditionar in time laps of him doing one of his drawings CLICK HERE. Rocket also has a web site where he has a number of he works for sale along with a little more info about himself.  

Now its not all a holiday down here its about science! Although, when I tell you about the next thing you'll have a chuckle I'm sure. Fishing, yep there is currently science happening which involves fishing. There is a crew here currently where all they have been doing all season is collecting fish to be examined to see if there are any human impacts in their environment. This is done by catching the fish and directing them and testing to see is there are the presence of any chemicals from human impact basically. While fishing Billy one of the FTO's (field training officers) accompanied them where they drilled some holes in the ice and caught a couple and one of the fish they caught was a Antarctic Ice Fish here are a couple web sites with more info......Page 1.........Page 2. Billy gave me a couple pics from that day and here they are.

Below is the drill used to cut the hole in the ice that will be used for fishing.

 Pic Billy Wallace

Hard at work.....

  Pic Billy Wallace

Some of the catch of the day.....

  Pic Billy Wallace

The Ice fish......better pic CLICK HERE

  Pic Billy Wallace

Have no idea but think they are trying out the new camouflage suits making it easy to get out of doing work......they didn't work for me either guys!!

 Pic Billy Wallace

Well another thing thats popped up in the news only today was the whisky that was found in Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds have been returned to the New Zealanders at Scott Base. There is one person in particular that would find this interesting CLICK HERE to have a look at the article.

Also in the news currently is a story about the Americans who are embarking on a ice drilling program into a lake to test the water. Only a couple months ago the Brits who had attempted something similar realised that whey were short on supplies, namely fuel, for the same type of project. The area where the drilling was taking place is about as remote as you can get. Flying planes into these places comes with different problems in terms of temperature and getting the fuel there is easy when the season is right but firstly todo that the fuel must be on the continent. Fuel is shipped in by ice breaker then loaded up onto the planes. Then the fuel can be flown in so its not as easy as many think. Many of the comments on one page i saw many though ahhh just fly more in but if it isn't there to fly it in how can they do it.  There has been lots of talks in internet forums about this. I think its way too easy for people back home to sit on their couches and judge when they haven experienced the harsh reality of this place. The latest attempt news clipping can be found HERE

Now like my Bever Lake trip a good friend of mine Horse this season went to a place called Amanda Bay. Now Amanda Bay is famous for the Emperor Penguin rookery. Amanda bay is located 80km west of Davis Station on the other side of the Sorsdal Glassier about half way to the Russian, Indian and Chinese stations. Barbra, one of the scientists and leader in penguins,  has been doing research on these little guys and Adelie penguins for a number of years. One of her papers on Emperor Penguins can be found HERE. So without going on too much here is what he saw!

Pic David Barringhaus
Pic David Barringhaus
Pic David Barringhaus
Pic David Barringhaus

Now onto something I really wish I didn't have to write. This blog to me has been my way of including you all in my journey, but on this occasion I find myself including you on part of the journey that I never though I would. You might remember the blog where I was privileged enough to fly to Beaver Lake which was one incredible day. Last week the twin Otter departed via Casey Station then South Pole on its homeward bound trip. 

On Tuesday 22nd I spoke to Bob as saw him on Facebook as when ever he wasn't flying he liked to stay in the loop of everything that was happening. If it wasn't a fly  day here you knew where he was going to be, sitting back in his favourite chair playing on his iPhone probably on Facebook. He told me he was stuck at the South Pole waiting for a weather window, Bob in his typical unflappable nature added didn't worry him as the rum was good.  The following day I received news that would change things for me for this season. Bobs plane went down on his way to  Terra Nova Bay in the Northern end of the Queen Alexandra Range. Bad weather hampered search and rescue as when the beacon went off and nobody could be reached by radio. A search and rescue plane flew over and winds were apparently 90 knots and not much visibility. 

Today after waiting for 4 days search and rescue was able to fly a plane over and see the wreckage and apparently was too bad for someone to survive. Unfortunately Bob, Perry and young Mike haven't made it which guts me. Words cant convey what I'm feeling at the moment though I think I'm lucky that we are currently in the middle of resupply and I'm surrounded by friends.  

Bob is as far as I am concerned a modern day Antarctic legend.When flying with him you would put the head sets on and talk as though you were sitting in a chair beside him. Difference was that we were a couple thousand feet in the air in his domaine. He would direct the plane over to get better looks at ice bergs and slow the plane so better pictures could be taken. Some of the most memorable days I've spent down here was with him. Always happy to part with his wisdom and teach along the way where ever we were going. Never silence was heard on the headsets other than at landing, takeoff and the occasional radio communication always jovial banter. 

Perry was the Twin Otter Engineer, always up for a game of darts winning the Davis Darts championships both last year and this. Mike was Bobs Co-Piliot and his love of flying and Bobs teachings were easy to see. These guys all touched the hearts of many, including my own, made dents upon there disappearance and shattered it when the news was confirmed today. 

F.I.P mate......Fly in peace.....

Sorry normally I like to leave on a upbeat note but this time I just don't have it in me.

Stay safe...........


P.S..............Some people come into our lives and quickly go.  Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.  ~Flavia Weedn